Using Dinner to Stay in Your Kids Lives VLOG

Hi there!

Here’s a sweet mini-VLOG for today on what our busy blended family does to stay connected with one another.

If you have other tips and tricks to add, please share in the comments below, I’m always open to trying out your ideas.

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So Called Mom

Why We (over)Film Our Family

film our family so called mom

We have 60 terabytes of family footage.

For the last ten years of our blended family life together, Pippin and I have been recording just about every single movement of every single member of our family. Why?
Because this life is worth capturing. Well, that’s the easy answer – the puffed-up proud mom answer. Because like anyone else, I love the obvious stuff like first steps and birthdays, Christmas and dance recitals. But the real meat of life is located in between those moments.

Such as Jake’s obsession with pulling out his siblings loose baby teeth. Any and all arguments. Emotional transitions from one parent’s house to the other. Getting sauced late Christmas Eve and sitting among hundreds of unwrapped presents. Recording our turtle dying from an overdose of anesthesia from the vet because the dog ate him.

Screen Shot 2017-03-10 at 5.41.42 PMLife is just so much less staged in these moments, and I feel more connected with the realness, with my kids and my family. These are not Pinterest worthy moments: the house is a mess and the dog is shaking off his smelly wet body everywhere and the cat is eating pizza off the table and the kids are hitting each other and I’m sitting in the center of it all in that moment of truth. You know the feeling? That moment where an inner voice says to you: At one point, this was exactly what you wanted. And better yet: Do you still want it?

These filmed moments of chaos help me say yes. And with some damn conviction.

I wish I could say filming was my idea, but I actually have Pippin to thank. He’s obsessed with recording everything about our family. He claims to “find human interaction fascinating”. He says our family is the test subject—Which he uses to hone his skills on.  “I like to record things that are helpful to other people.  I want to help people in parenting through real life instructional videos.” Full Disclosure:

12799046_568641576638482_7182607379463116633_nAt the beginning of our recorded life together, I was not that keen on being on camera all the time. When Pascal was born, a short year after we met, I was still camera shy—or at least still worried about how I looked on camera. So when Pippin assumed we’d record the birth, it was met with a resounding no. Not when I was the leading lady, huffing and puffing, uncomfortable on my back—with the potential to suddenly not be able to communicate that I wanted him to “turn that freaking thing off.”

But, three continuously recorded years later, things had changed. Leopold’s three camera cinematic set up was in the works before I even made it to the corner suite of the Nine’s Hotel. (Another post for another day, but suffice it to say, Leopold’s birth was less of a How-To guide on birthing a kid, than an intense TMI guide about the discomfort of childbirth. And when we posted that video on Youtube, it probably served as birth-control for someone.

These days I’m totally sold on being filmed at any time of the day, whatever I’m doing.

10730856_370529239783051_348553510128390596_nI now understand his reasons. I think he just thinks his family is the most amazing thing walking the Earth. He doesn’t see the mess of life; he sees family poetry. And if he blinks, it will all be aged out. Whether it’s dancing in the shower, the kids laughing, in the hospital with a broken arm, my yelling at a kid or even bawling my eyes out—it all has it’s logical place in our world together. I would even go so far as to say I get ticked off now when he’s not recording , especially during a critical family moment that we will never recapture.

This is all to give some context about why we film. It’s because to us, these moments matter. All of them. I’ve even thought about setting up a few cameras in the house, to be rolling at all times.

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So then, does this make us a selfie family?

I want to say no, but all signs point to yes. And for the most part, everyone is on board, or at least tolerant. Jake is constantly criticizing us for overusing or “abusing” the cameras. When the camera turns on, Phoenix reduces his personality to resemble day old porridge. Milla dodges questions and MJ slaps her forehead. But on occasion, one of the unwilling participants gives us a gem—a small glimmer into who they are becoming. The rest of the footage is just about how they got there.

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And one of these days, I will be able to sit down and press play. Almost like I get to enjoy my life twice. At least I will never be the mom who says, “I can’t remember.”

I won’t need to remember, it’s all right here.

Aaaand cut,

So Called Mom

Next Post: Letting kids fail

Why SO Many Kids?

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

How many kids are too many kids, you ask?

There are never too many! But then again, I’m probably the wrong person to ask since I’m 17 years into building my own army. I’m proud of having this many kids. We are a spectacle everywhere we go, even though they kind of hate it by now. Especially as they’ve gotten older. It’s embarrassing to them.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

I don’t mind other people flat out gawking at us, but I do sometimes really mind the comments.

“You have your hands full.”

“Whoa. Ever heard of a condom?”

“OH THE LAUNDRY!”

And once in a blue moon, we get “Wow. How lucky you are—You are so blessed.”

That one makes all the other comments alright. But even if I got only criticism and no compliments, it wouldn’t be enough to make me stop. I have a death grip on my reasons for having so many kids. The main one being: I’m not lonely anymore.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

When I was growing up I had three boys to play with: My older brother and two cousins.

I tagged along until my brother left for college. My cousins moved away. It was awkward to be a sudden only child at 16. My parents also changed. Everything was so strange and quiet. So I felt alone for years until I found someone to have a baby with. I was 21, and Jake’s dad was much older. He also couldn’t hack parenthood and bailed immediately.
Jake and I were on our own for a bit. I loved him so much, that I barely noticed his dad was gone. Jake was my lifeboat. My ticket to wholeness. Looking back all these years, I realize that was quite a bit of pressure to put on a baby. Of course, I would never do this now…would I?

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

Now that he’s about to turn 17, Jake thinks we have too many kids in our cramped house. But even if the house was a mansion and each kid had their own room, it would still be too many to him.

Nowadays, he’s busy making plans to get his own place, and he brings it up a lot. So much so, that I want to dig my heels in and keep him in my basement forever. I fully admit that sounds psychotic. But I’m terrified that I’m on the brink of being lonely again. And quickly, too. Even though the kids ages are spread apart (16, 15, 14, 14, 11, 9, 5), I know it’s only a matter of one of them leaving that will cause the rest of the dominoes to fall. So then, my rationale is that if I never stop having kids, I can always make sure there is someone new to fill the baby shoes I save. It’s a way for me to freeze time for awhile.

Why SO Many Kids So Called MomAnd, just between you and me, there’s a good chance that at least one of the kids – like the baby, Leopold – might never move out. He might just be the kid that still needs me so much, that the farthest he’ll move is right next door. This is a sincere hope of mine that would take some outright brainwashing. That doesn’t seem right at all, but I can’t say it doesn’t cross my mind. And while I can’t rightfully ask you not to judge me, I understand why you would.

Now there’s drawbacks to having so many kids, as you might expect. These drawbacks go much deeper than the fatalistic loads of laundry I slave over. And it has nothing to do with what a pain in the ass being pregnant is, or how bad it hurts to give birth. It’s the never resting chaos that comes with the territory: I barely have enough time for me, let alone daily one-on-one time with each of them. It’s also the pressure of having a Christmas that somehow outdoes the previous one. And how we never seem to have enough money to cover our bases. We have to call ourselves “Financially Creative” to help us feel better about the circumstances.

Even with all these cards laid out on the table, it’s all about the future of this lifestyle that has me excited–and terrified, at the same time.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

In the future, when they come home from college for Christmas break, it will be fun to watch them reunited for the first time in months. In my mind, it will look like a movie. And when they come home for Christmas with their own families—it will look like a freaking Norman Rockwell painting. (We’ll need a bigger table of course.) And of course, when I’m dead and gone, I won’t know what it will look like, but I have guaranteed that each of them will always have someone be there for them. All of this excites me and makes me proud to ultimately pull it off each day.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

But the future I’m terrified of is what hangs over my shoulders.

I know what you’re thinking, and I’m not ignorant to it:

“It’s time for you to So Called Stop having so many kids.”

“Gather up some So Called Confidence.”

“Get a So Called Hobby.”

These comments come from my own inner voice, too– not just the people who stand and stare at our large family and huge double grocery carts of food.

But at least I’m willing to acknowledge the loneliness I felt before I had kids, and the future I imagine without them. Is it an illness? An addiction? Insecurity? Am I being self serving? All of the above? I have somehow found a way to untangle my life by living tangled up in theirs. This is all I know.

Why SO Many Kids So Called Mom

So then, what is my answer to letting go of them? Is it having more kids to fill the void that’s left when the older ones leave? I’m not sure I can imagine my life without them in it.

Too Much Love,

So Called Mom

 

Up Next: Why I Hate Screens

How to Get Your Kids to Talk to You

kids jake mj and pascal so called mom

My last post was about fighting, so it only seems right to follow up with talking—to the kids!

Since we have seven kids with vastly different ages, I always have to temper my conversations to some kind of age appropriateness. This is difficult because their ages are always changing.  I recently read about what I’m supposed to be doing on the pamphlets that my pediatrician sends me away with. One of the big no no’s from our family doctor is that apparently I should’ve been helping them communicate better and make friends. I mean, it’s not like we don’t have any kids in the house for them to get to know! There are 4 teenagers, two tweens and Leopold. Surely there’s someone to befriend. I say we get a pass on that rule. Still though, every age group is different and, as they get older, it gets harder to talk.

kids so called momWhen I talk to my teenagers, I feel like I’m playing ping pong—with a baseball bat.

I’m so “not doing it right.” I’m so “embarrassing.” I’m so not even sure anything I’ve said makes it into their ears because of the damn headphones. Those things have become so discreet, but also so huge. I suppose it depends on the day—whether they feel like wearing the headphones that are as big as a billboard or the ones that double as Q-Tips. Plus, these days, they are basically fused to the kids heads, no matter how big or small they are. I think I’d like it more if it was music and not videos. Or videos about video games. Or videos of people we don’t know playing video games.

And I’m the one who’s not fascinating?

Let’s take dinner last week. One of my four daughters, Milla, was able to make it through an entire meal with them on, without me knowing it. Her phone was on her lap and when she laughed, I thought it was because of something I said. Sneaky.

I think I’m worth the conversation. I think they are too. But having quality conversations—the stuff that KEEPS you in their life, can be tricky.

Since we homeschool many of the kids, I obviously can’t ask what they did at school. Instead I spend our daytime together being a tyrant over their education. So this gets annoying. To all of us. My daughter Earth has learned not to approach me directly after I’ve had my coffee. I’m all over her with schedules, to-do lists, extra credit and electives. She was only wondering if we had more milk.

The tweens are a little more easygoing AND still think Im fabulous. It’s easier to talk, because I still have their attention. I can still take them out and just about buy their love. I know that’s probably not in those doctor pamphlets but hey, when your kids get older, you try anything for together time.

kids so called momLeopold, the baby (OK…. he’s 5, but he’s MY baby), is still a dream to talk to. I am his everything. We talk about explosions and boogers. Dinosaurs and my pretty hair. He is the only kid who is following my footsteps in ballet, for real this time. Everyone else has dropped out.

I am into together time. Even if it means holding some kids captive, against their will.

This is done best at the dinner table. Seven years ago, I became convinced I was losing touch with my children….and I was. So I began a nightly family ritual at the dinner table “What I Liked About Today and What I Didn’t Like About Today,” designed to get the kids talking—to Pippin and me and to each other. (Even though the teens have retitled it What Sucked and What’s Awesome) You get the idea.

“What I liked about today is that I learned how to ride switch to fakie on my new board. What I didn’t like about today was that I fell and hurt my shoulder.”

“What I liked about today was that we all got to say goodbye to the turtle. What I didn’t like was that we had to put him to sleep because the dog ate him.”

“Whats awesome about today is that I’m finally going to a normal school. What sucks is that I’ve been stuck in the basement in front of a computer so long, that I don’t know how to talk to other kids anymore.”

“What I liked about today is this dinner. What I didn’t like is that the dog just farted. You guys smell that?”

kids so called mom

By the time we cycle halfway through these, we are either laughing, annoyed or both.

There is a lot of talking over one another. I have spent almost a decade getting everyone to listen while others are talking. It doesn’t work. It is chaotic and overwhelming. But the point is, they are talking.  Even if, by the end of it all, we can’t hear each other speak and it doesn’t look like how I want it to, I can still feel like I’m a part of it all.  And with any luck, those headphones are somewhere else for an hour.

Good Talk,

So Called Mom

Next Post: To Homeschool…Or Not.